Clemens surprised Pettitte landed in Houston

Updated: December 14, 2003, 5:59 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Even Roger Clemens is stunned that Andy Pettitte is no longer a Yankee.

In an interview with the New York Post on Saturday, Clemens claimed that if the Yankees had taken an aggressive approach toward retaining Pettitte, they would have been able to re-sign his close friend. Pettitte won 21 games for the Yankees last season and 149 in his nine-year career in New York.

Pettitte signed with the Astros for less money, citing the chance to play near home and his family. Pettitte accepted a $31.5 million, three-year contract from the Astros, while the Yankees offered $39 million.

"I'm really surprised with how [the Yankees] handled this," Clemens told the Post. "They're going out having cheeseburgers with everybody else [a reference to Steinbrenner wooing David Wells], yet didn't do anything with Andy."

The Yankees ended up reaching agreement on a minor-league deal with the 40-year-old Wells, who has had major back problems.

Meanwhile, the Astros made Pettitte their highest pitching priority. "They really wanted me here," Pettitte said at the time of the signing.

Did the Yankees want him as much? They devoted most of their energy to acquiring Javier Vazquez, negotiating with Gary Sheffield, Wells, and others without having much contact with Pettitte, who had a chance to become the all-time winningest left-handed pitcher in Yankees history.

"When Andy and I talked a month ago, I kept telling him I thought it was going to be an easy decision for him, because I thought the Yankees would come hard after him and it would make it an easy decision for him," Clemens told the Post. "And no one really called.

"I think that's how the Astros got their foot in the door, and they made a couple of nice offers and they got inside the stadium, if you will."

The Yankees may have been resigned from the beginning that Pettitte would leave.

"It's obvious to a lot of us from the start that he wanted to go home," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said recently. "He wanted to go home to Houston. And I admire him for wanting to be with his family. He couldn't do that in New York."

Pettitte's departure could be doubly painful for Steinbrenner because Clemens himself might decide to abandon his retirement plans and join Pettitte on the Astros. In fact, Pettitte and Clemens have been working out together.

Both Pettitte and veteran Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell are trying to convince Clemens to come out of retirement.

"Andy called me [Friday], I'm playing golf with [Bagwell] on Tuesday," Clemens told the Post. "I'm sure everybody is going to give me their pitch. ... I haven't talked it over with anybody, but there are just so many factors involved right now. I would have never foreseen this a few months ago at the end of the season, but obviously with Andy not being a Yankee, so in that aspect, things have changed."

"He needs some space," Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks, told the Post. "How could you not do it? He lives just eight miles from [Minute Maid Park]. And they have a really good team. Could you do it for eight more months at home for maybe a team that could capture a Florida Marlins magical ride?"

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